There is a unique challenge that many women face every month. ‘How to menstruate without seeming like your menstruating?’. And by the time we graduate high school most of us are pretty successful. Every cycle, 30 to 40mls of blood is treated like nothing more than a scratch, leaving no trace. What if you fail? We all know what will happen then. How embarrassing. But the average woman goes through 500 cycles in her life, how can we possibly guarantee success every time? There are some people pushing back against this bizarre expectation for perfection. Blood? Let it flow. So what? This was the beginning of the ‘Free Bleeding’ movement. What’s the worst that could happen if you let it flow?
So What If I Bleed?
This term refers to the act of allowing your menstrual blood to flow freely without using any products such as pads or tampons, and not being bothered by it. Sometimes it is displayed openly as a form of protest or to raise awareness. But why? It is an individual protest against the social atmosphere that thinks menstruation should be hidden, as well as against the price of expensive menstrual products.
A Short History
In 2004, an American blogger called Sarah posted, “I don’t mind rinsing my panties out in the sink, or getting blood in the sheets now and then. I like not feeling like I have failed somehow when a product leaks… Mainly it is just about being comfortable with menstruation. I am not lazy! I am not irresponsible! I just think it is OK to overflow sometimes!” Many women related to the post. It became the first online discussion about free bleeding.
In 2012, Swedish Photographer Emma Arvida Byström directed a pictorial depicting girls bleeding menstrual blood in public and released it on the online media service, ‘Vice’. The intense images drew heated debate online. The title of the pictorial is "there will be blood”, seeming to imply both resignation and defiance.
In 2014, several netizens on the U.S. online community '4chan' claimed that they would reject menstrual supplies to resist the patriarchy as a feminist. However, according to a number of media reports, the movement was actually a hoax by an anti-feminist group. It was a misogynistic stunt attempting to bring social criticism against feminists. Paradoxically, through this incident, the public was introduced to the concept of free bleeding, and many women perceived the idea positively.
In 2015, American drummer Kiran Gandhi deliberately challenged the London Marathon without wearing any menstrual products. As she crossed the finish line, her leggings were stained with blood, but her face shone with a smile of victory. “I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist. I ran to say, it does exist, and we overcome it every day.”
Why Do People Free Bleed?
Various people refuse menstrual products for a variety of reasons.
🗣️ ’Why should I be ashamed of menstruation?’
Someone who wants to challenge the world
🎁 ‘I want to menstruate as I want, freely’
Someone who doesn’t want menstruation to make them feel small
☹️ ’Why are all menstrual supplies expensive and uncomfortable?’
Someone who critiques commercial practices and period poverty
🗑️ ’Too much trash’
Someone who doesn’t want to harm the environment
☂️ ’The price is too much’
Someone who couldn’t buy products for economical reasons
Is Free Bleeding Dangerous?
Menstrual blood itself is not a particularly harmful substance. There are several issues to consider, however. When menstrual blood is exposed to the air, it can smell strongly, and you should be careful about the transmission of viruses through the blood. The same is true of all other situations of bleeding. There is also the annoying task of cleaning clothes and things with blood on them.
Will you Try it?
Running 42.195kms with menstrual blood flowing is not the only way to advocate for freedom of choice. The essence of free bleeding is not how much blood is shed or how many people see it. Free bleeding is a way for us to naturally acknowledge and embrace our own menstruation.
It's enough just to wake up one morning and see the blood on the bed sheet and refuse to blame yourself or be sad. Let's acknowledge the bleeding body by saying, "Who cares". You can compliment yourself as a successful 'free bleeder'. Today, my attitude of not being ashamed of my menstruation will begin. Thousands of years of stupid, all-encompassing humankind misunderstandings can be destroyed by a change that begins so trivially.